Oct. 25, 2021

S1 Ep27: Children's Author Adam Bushnell

Crazy kids names, rejection, tortoises - that's what writing for children and inspiring them to develop a passion for reading and writing is all about. We catch up with children's author Adam Bushnell to find out a bit more about writing for kids, teaching teachers and... well, look, we're not just going to tell you everything that's in this episode, are we? You'll have to listen to it.
Tips for watching Jon perform Shakespeare - https://academyoffencingmasters.com/blog/fencing-with-glasses/
Diary of a bookseller - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jGFljyfORi8
Music by Dano Songs

welcome to the failing writers podcast


there it is that that was the sound that was a rubbish yeah it wasn't the best sorry can we can we have another door we need to we need a a really good halloween creepy dog okay

that that that was the sound that was the sound of a competition closing ladies and gentlemen the failing writers halloween flash fiction writing competition is closed do not enter your entry will not count done it's too late finished you missed it we've had entries from all over haven't we we have from all corners of the well most corners at least three out of four corners of the world um yeah next week we will be announcing the winner of the hundred pounds prize and producing up and performing the winning story yes high level production yeah you'll get to hear the final production yes but before then we've got something equally as exciting in its own way an interview i said that in quite an upbeat way you did go a bit children's presenter there yeah because uh adam bushnell who we've got coming on is a children's author um so i'm talking in a way as if i was talking to a child and he's um he's a very brave children's author isn't it because he spends a lot of his time going into schools to inspire kids how to write and teach them i used to go into school briefly after university well you were a teacher well i was a teacher but before that even oh right yeah i used to tour around schools with another guy putting on these performances basically teaching kids about shakespeare course uh but i just remember one time uh the one of the most frightening moments was uh we had this uh sword fight that we would do at the end and um obviously over the period of time where we were performing we'd kind of elongated this sword fight so it became really protracted you know we'd go on for ages and ages and we worked out this whole like scenario and they'll be rolling around on the floor and anyway got to it got to the end of this sort of fight and i kind of take this big swing and came down on the other guy's sword and the the little bit of the end of my foil like span off into the audience and i just remember it was like slow motion as this tiny little like dagger flew through the air like twisted through the air and just missed this kid's eye by about two inches and you should have the whole school just went silent for a moment and we just wasn't in the risk assessment but yeah there are there are hazards uh you know when you interact with children sometimes jeez it would have been interesting if the kid had been impaled by that small sharp piece of metal

to see whether that was the worst part of his day to be honest

that's his best as he's having to sit through shakespeare's wheeled out of the room other kids other kids going do me next do me next he's getting out he's going like he's leaving he's just picking up spoons and pencils and anything they can find look i've got one in the eye as well stabbing them into their own head and you've said you're gonna um get the group back together john and do a live performance with podcasts haven't you yeah yeah we'll do that it was it was actually me and rich who we are gonna have on the show so oh there we go we could do a little we could re-enact it really yeah let's do that nice brilliant whilst you rehearse for that yeah let's let's hear from us have a chat with adam

so welcome to the podcast adam bushnell uh nice to have you thank you very much it's nice to be here i was hoping for one of dave's clacsons um is that too much to ask i'll give you a collection if you want he doesn't just give out clarkson's willy nilly i'm afraid he does john

anyone who asks

there you go adam bushnell clarkson but you've never had one of those before never in my life that was an absolute first i'm a classroom virgin not anymore not anymore well yeah dave has broken you in on that yeah so uh so thanks for joining us

there's nowhere to go from there you've peaked that's it exactly i suppose while you're here we could probably ask you a few questions while you're here i mean i suppose we probably won't use them we'll just finish at the clackson but um yeah i was it was interesting actually adam i was uh doing some uh last minute revision on you um this morning i'm just having to read through your little biog on your website you're primarily a children's author but you do an awful lot of work in schools kind of with yeah i mean that's my main job is is trying to inspire writing in the classroom yeah i i just absolutely love it kids are so refreshingly honest you know if they think you're [ __ ] they really don't mind telling you and what kind of pretends that at all and i love that but what i love the most is is when you see children that don't particularly like writing yeah who are inspired and they want to write uh yeah there's no better thing i absolutely love it but actually one of one of the main reasons i love being in the in skills is children's names they're incredible and they're getting increasingly what's your favorite my favorite um it's just too many i met twins called rogan and josh

this was a spectacular one somebody called whose mother couldn't decide between shakira and beyonce

she wrote a name on a piece of writing and what she wrote was l e then there was a hyphen and then a h and i said oh that that's that's a good bit of writing that leah and she said my name's not leia i'll see what's you there but she said my name's lee dasha and i said well technically it's lee hyphen ah but i looked a little bit blank and um yeah it's brilliant i write them down when i get in there they're just amazing and they're just getting better and better it's it's great yeah so anyway i was probably shocked to stop listing children it's well yeah probably but it's it's uh the reason i love being working with children and being in skills is because um you know their ideas are fantastic i do know quite a few children's authors that primarily just go into um schools to get ideas for their new books so they plagiarize

children regularly tell me are you going to start writing down what we said because that's what the last author did and i'm just yeah it's really it's children are just brilliant they're hilarious they just they have a different kind of logic don't they which is quite just amazing the places they go i was talking to mike the other day about renewable energy we were talking about how there used to be a lot of coal and i said something like oh that's why like a lot of old buildings are kind of you know you get this sort of black on the outside of old buildings because of the coal dust and she went oh is that why all old things are in black and white because of the colder that's like yeah that actually makes perfect sense just they just make you laugh they're just so funny just just um i was at wig town book festival which was amazing and um just an amazing place have you guys ever been to wake town no no it's it's a whole town in scotland of secondhand bookshops oh it's it's scotland's national town of books and um an amazing place i only went into three book shops and then decided i better stop because i'd spend my entire already that was wise if i didn't but anyway i was i was working with a group of children and um we were doing something to do with greek myths and i said does anybody does anybody know any of the greek gods and this this child his hand went rocking up and he blurted out herpes

he surely just wasn't telling you his

name but yeah it is it's just really funny and i was in a private school and we were designing our own mythical monsters and then there was an assembly at the end of the day where um the children were sharing their writing what they've done and they were very able they were very careful these children so i just kind of like stood to the side while they were presenting their their writing to the rest of the school and this one child stood there and he said my monster's got great big testicles i'm wearing testicles he's squeezes the life out of people and he crushes them you know with his testicles and i'm stood there to decide pentacles

whilst at the same time write down the idea for

there's a big thread through your stuff of the kind of the myths and legends thing isn't it where does that come from i suppose it was um a holiday to to greece when i was a child and i was reading the ancient greek books the ancient greek stories and they just absolutely captured my imagination i thought they were just the greatest stories and i i like reading a range of different things but um you know myths and legends i always just keep going back to it and actually publishers keep approaching me um you still get a reputation and then people come to you and say can you write as a series of myths i'm working on something at the moment which is an academic book but it's an academic book based around myths and legends where each story will have some activities for teachers to then teach in the classroom so it's it's a book of uk myths and legends so i might you know tell a welsh um folktale or myth or legend and then there'll be some activities for children to have some writing opportunities in the classroom and are you still finding new myths and legends then are you still unearthing ones that you've never heard of yeah i mean the theory is that there are only seven stories in the world yeah everything's a variation of all the stories but it's it's incredible that you still find new ones constantly they might have like a similar thread they might have a similar yeah we've got that kind of local twist on it avenue or something absolutely absolutely i mean this book of uh legends from um from the uk i found like a a scottish folk tale called whoopity stewie which is basically um you don't need to say any more than that i think that just it's a variation of rumpelstiltskin and where you have to guess the main character's name and there are lots of versions of that from from here and from all over the place so you get variations but i'm still discovering new ones constantly yeah and even when you um i know i noticed you've you wrote an adult novel and you couldn't even get away from it on that because you had to delve into some mexican myths of murderous scary cursed dogs yeah it was i really enjoy driving that it was it was a bit of a you'd think it was a journey from away from what i normally write but this is the perfect podcast for me to be on because i've written probably 30 novels that have never been published and um that's the stuff we want to know about yes um you know i i i remember writing um i was published about i suppose about 14 years ago now and it was a book of short stories and the same publishers approached me and said have i written any novels and back then it was all paper submissions so you had to submit a great big printed out watch of a submission that you would then post yeah and you also had to put in return postage um in there as well so they could send it back to you with with comments on and um this was my first ever novel and i was quite excited about it was a novel that i wrote while i was still teaching and i'd read it to my class and you know they told me it was great and um i think they were just being kind to me really i said earlier on about children being honest but uh when you've got your they're very honest with strangers when you've got your own class they can be quite loyal and tell you that you're great oh yeah yeah we love it yeah brilliant yeah yeah it's brilliant as they're sitting in their happy place thinking about something else and so anyway shut up jostling exclamation mark pronounce punctuation again um so i sent it off to these publishers and anyway they they wrote me a rejection letter that was it was really very kind it was usually standard you know we read it with interest and all the rest of it but then the manuscript that they sent back to me they they'd annotated it with their own opinions and um one of them somebody just scrubbed out an entire description that i wrote and just wrote the word [ __ ] right across it

and then another one else

quite good but that clearly the publishers don't think that they are and i'm sometimes impressed by what gets published and what gets rejected i'm sometimes amazed by some of the things that i've got in print that do quite well and then some of the things that would knock back i mean that there was an agent um down in london obviously i'm not going to say which urgent just submitted a novel a young adult novel where it had a mislegend sort of theme to it and they got like super excited about it they said you know we need you to come down to london to talk to us this is something that we think we all think is quite special so i booked a train and booked a hotel and i thought i'd make a bit of a thing of it you know so i went down to this agency and they said you know it needs a bit of work it needs a bit of rewriting but we think at this agency that this could be hunger games big we have a hollywood movie attached to it we know it when we find a novel like this and your novel is it so we'd like you to go away after this meeting and uh redraft certain sections of it and then and send it back to us so um hey i was so excited about this this was like oh i'm gonna made it anyway that's great went home and i i rewrote it and then resubmitted it and uh they sent me a very curt email basically saying yeah we don't like it um we're not gonna go ahead so i don't remember who it was but in your episode one of you mentioned that you were asked to redraft something and then um when you resubmitted it you made it worse they rejected it you remember who that was uh

it could be one of those occasions where the person who loved it and was really you know trying to sell it to everybody else had left the building it's been sacked for their complete lack of ability to check out decent books that is really weird though isn't it to you turn that much that's awful yeah i mean i personally believe that that rejection is a huge part of being an author it's it's a massive part of it you've got to have things knocked back however i'm now at the stage in in my writing career where um publishers will approach me and they'll say can you write x y and zed and i'll do that then they reject it but they actually pay me for my time and so that's a little bit different it's you know at least you get a paycheck attached at the end yeah adam i was i was reading on your website and you were saying just before you um you tend to uh read stuff to your pupils do you do you always do that do you hone you kind of almost like whole new material like a comedian i don't know i did when i was a full-time teacher because i could read my class whereas now if i go in and try new stuff when i've been hired to go there as an author i'm being paid as an author if i'm trying new stuff out i feel a bit more comfortable with that kind of um i just do stuff that's really tried and tested in skills and a lot of schools will certainly they won't actually pick a topic they'll just say just do something that you know will inspire a decent piece of writing in the classroom and i'm always amazed by watching come up with their ideas and their turner phrases and their ability to use metaphor and simile and all these other figurative language techniques i'm always amazed at that they're incredible well the reason we got you on the podcast was you went into my kids school and they absolutely loved it um i don't know what what you hope that you leave with the children as their main kind of thing from the day but i know one of my kids said um the the biggest thing and what he kept referring to was um that he really liked your hair

um just to clarify for our for our listener i i i'm reaching an age now where a lot of my friends are bold and very gray and and and i'm not and to celebrate it i've kind of adorned almost like a footballer's hairstyle where it's quite you know it's long on top and slicked back but shaved on the sides and i get told every day in schools i like your hair i like that yeah this is the only thing that seemed to leave behind me not a love of reading a love of writing but oh we had that block and he had he had quite good hair but i mean do you get do you get long-term feedback on you know because you must revisit the same schools and stuff about so yeah i am very lucky that i i returned to schools but this this week town book festival um came about because one of the main organizers who now lives in wake town used to live in spanimore in county durham and um i went into his school when he was little and he remembers me and got me into you know full service well we need someone to come and talk about hair this thing i know someone who's got amazing hair in a place called it's all coming together um but yeah it's it's great that the children remember me and um it's it's great that you know they enjoy it and when you go into a school and kids are so excited to see you it is the best yeah i mean i take my tortoise in the school as well um with me and whenever i do that i've got a pet tortoise called jet and um whenever i take jet into school with me um children don't if they're not really bothered about me anymore every time i have a walk in the building they're just like adam bush never got your turtle the only thing that they uh that they ever say to me and i do get my full name everywhere i go and uh it's all adam bushnell i don't get adam or mr bushnell it's just adam bushnell the tortoise man you've um you've written books for teachers as well haven't you on how to um how to improve kids creative writing in primary schools yeah what is what so what is your do you have like a particular philosophy on how you go about doing that i mean children they they need a bit of structure and they need lots of modeling i think if teachers model writing if teachers become writers themselves i think that helps with the teaching of writing so on friday this week i'm running a teacher training course which will be all about um how we as teachers should be modeling writing and i'll have the teachers writing in that in that lesson and a lot of teachers are frightened of writing and they certainly don't want to write live in front of um children you know in case yes they make a mistake foolish somehow yeah but actually you know what if we show children that we're learning as writers all the time then i think it just them to be writers i think when you write with and for children it makes them be less terrified of the process and it's um and i get it you know writing is scary um and writing is difficult and it's hard to do yeah but for me the the biggest thing that i say to teachers is is is to make reading a priority in the school yeah that reading is so important for children for lots of different reasons but um yeah but mainly that you know a child can um find out what it's like to be um somebody else that they can find out what it's like in um in a different country or in a different world or a different universe it allows them to climb inside the mind of of characters in books and allows them to see things from their perspective and therefore it's teaching children empathy which is the main we want for children is for them to be empathic human beings you know um so i also teachers that reading is breathing in and writing is breathing out you can't have one without the other they're entirely symbiotic so you've got to make um reading a priority in your school if you want children to be good writers and that's a part of these academic books i used to get a bit frustrated when my kids were at primary school because there seemed to be so much emphasis on spag at the time i don't know if that's changed now but they'd they'd write these brilliant stories and then they always used to come back with all these lines through correcting the spelling or the grammar and i used to think they're going to learn how to they're going to learn how to spell at some point you know it's better surely it's better just to sort of focus on the story and and give them a sense of the you know the joy of writing and i don't know i swear i i think it might have sucked some of the uh some of their enthusiasm out of the whole process is that do you find that's the same thing or it's it's 100 i mean my two latest books uh are about spag and i'm trying to make spag exciting um the two books are part of a descriptosaurus series that i've started writing for i didn't create descriptosaurus it was created by wonderful alison wilcox who's just been like my writing mentor she's amazing and she's allowed me to come in on this series of descriptosaurus books actually that's a great way to get published is you basically make friends with somebody and don't leave them alone until they allow you to write with them the descriptosaurus is such an amazing resource for teachers it is it's the best idea i'm like evangelical about it in schools and um so the two latest descriptors are entirely about spag and it's it's it's because it's such a priority for teachers and the reason being is that you know they um that seems to be the government priority well that's that's the thing isn't it for the teacher that's the kind of metric that they're getting yeah that's it it's just so dull it's just so boring and um but these books that i've got try to make it more exciting um so the theme for one of them is instead of the gingerbread girl it's the ninja bread girl so i've made like ninja references all the way through and to try and make spag exciting and the other one's a pirate descriptor because pirates are fun so everyone knows that everyone knows that pirates are fun so yeah it's it is a big stick that um hovers over the teacher and the child i think it it people like michael mcpurgo the author of warhol and various other things he sat down and he did a year six sat test to see how he could get on with it and um he said he couldn't write within the constraints of it that it was it was just too too challenging for him to to meet these criteria whilst yourself creatively so it's uh yeah it's a frustration really

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i'm just sort of thinking about um like because we've because we've all got kids of different ages but uh one thing i'm noticing with mine is the sort of she's sort of powering through the different um levels of books you know for different ages do you experience anything with the kind of requirements of writing books for specific year groups or specific levels of reading just i've started writing reading skin books and they are so specific they are um it's a case of um it has to have a certain number of words in the sentence certainly spelling things it has to avoid certain types of language when i first started writing those i found it super difficult because um i felt that i was having my creativity stifled yeah after a while um i just kind of like i just got into it really i just treated it like a discipline for for for writing i wouldn't want to write like that all the time but but i can do it now is it so something you just sort of get tuned in to that thing and then you can yeah absolutely you just sort of what i'm writing for um so i've been writing some books for bloomsbury about um ideas for the classroom and they like a particular writing style when i'm writing um for her shetty children's group uh again they like a particular writing style so you you just kind of get into it really yeah yeah i always used to feel sorry for whoever wrote the biff and chip books he'd get that he'd get that key and he'd have to go back into that house again every time i have never in all the years i've been in schools i've never seen children go outside and say hey you be biff and i'll be chip and let's pretend that you're the dog and let's do this you're floppy you know kids don't that's so dull and that's why i start writing reading skin books is because i wanted to like superheroes and mermaids and unicorns and all the things that i find that children get excited about it yeah yeah yeah a dozy [ __ ] dog in this dorsey [ __ ] family

well it's yeah the awful thing about that was when our kids were doing the biff chip and things was there was no way of hiding our absolute boredom and disappointment as they pulled it out the skull back let's do let's do reading i used to fall asleep after about two minutes you could guarantee obviously it was quite nice you get a little afternoon nap but it didn't really show your encouragement for your kids on tuesday and wednesday this week i'm in a school but i'm talking to parents and the the school want me to talk to the parents about the importance of reading and about how what they can do to support their child at home and i'll be absolutely saying to them you know if you do end up with a book like biff and chip or other such shite like that what you need to do is to try and make it fun by you know

if you were the author how would you make it more exciting again i'll refer you back to my previous point this book this book is hot this book is not i don't advocate burning books obviously there's a history of people burning books that doesn't reflect a good book that's very good that's true let's not start burning books but i would make an exception we've been burned by them the level of feedback that i was given once um was that i i get to i used to get to travel all over the world doing this job i've been to lots of exciting places visiting international and british schools and i went to one in uh unnamed school in the middle east and um did a workshop with the kids it was fantastic had a great day and then when i got home i found out that um my agent that i used for such trips had shipped some of my books to the school but it decided to ship my viking myths and legends and my ancient egyptian myths and legends both of which contain quite a lot of alcohol consumption um horned beasts talks about gods and things like that all the things that really you're not allowed to do in the middle east so anyway and some of the children took these books home the parents read them and a whole group of parents um got together and burned my books in the school yards that's so cool my reaction um i was absolutely aghast that i could have yeah people to such an extent and i said to my agent you know what are you doing sending those books why did you send those one and but anyway what what that did it was create the most profitable aspects of your publishing career because now you can just literally sell boxes of books that go out and get burned and then they need to buy some more custom fuel it inspired me to write a book called journey of the pearl which was a book inspired by middle eastern culture and i did masses of research and looked into the sagas of gilgamesh and looked at like sinbad the sailor and all these things i wrote a book specifically for a middle eastern audience and sent some to that school and the school librarian wrote back to me and said the parents think this book is great they forgot

well that's a much more mature constructive and imaginative way of dealing yeah than what we would have done yeah any of us adam you've been in and around the teaching game for what like 25 years or something i'm guessing uh i was wondering if like with the rise of gaming and social media you've noticed any sort of decline in the amount that kids generally read or do you think that you think they've just always been distractions for kids but they've just changed a bit or the distractions are just getting better and better aren't they i mean that's what it feels yeah i mean it's you know there's so much tv and so many amazing games out there for children to to choose to access that why would they read really so i i find that children read generally um because they have to because school kind of is something that they have to do that's why my kids read because i make oh the joy of reading exactly yeah yeah i've got three kids um i've got my own son and i've got two step-children and um none of them choose to read no none of them the only reason for school i mean certainly nobody nobody in my house has read a single word that i've written

even my partner um she's she's just like i've already booked out that's mad isn't it because i'm quite used to nobody in the house listening to a word i say but then to write a load of words down and no one even read them that's just another level of it isn't it this is the perfect podcast but no one in your house is going to listen to it okay so yeah it's um the screen is a massive distraction for for children and also for adults as well i mean i know adults spend their entire lives looking at screens and they they get up in the morning and they look at the screen and not speak to each other and then they drive to work looking at a screen and then they arrive at work looking at a screen all day and then they go home looking at a screen and get home and look at a screen all night and it's just such a tragic existence isn't it and what i what i try and do is give children like experiences in schools that will make them excited and hopefully want to read and write and um you know it maybe it works maybe it doesn't but i it's it's it's one of the ones where you can see it working immediately in that present moment when i'm working with a class and they are excited about reading and they're excited about writing that's that's that's amazing for me so it's um i i can understand that children that don't choose to read i mean i i like it if they did but um you know to compete with with the things that are out there it's it's real really challenging for everybody that's why we all all of us here on this podcast need to write something that will make people want to read it yes that sounds like it sounds like a good

well challenge think we should set ourselves that challenge chaps at some point to write something that somebody wants to read i mean yeah why break the habit of life generally no uh yeah a children's story i was thinking we need to uh that should be our next task i think absolutely yeah yeah

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thank you adam what did uh when you were a kid did you read a lot and what did you like reading if you did i i i did read um i liked books about animals um i liked when i was a primary school sort of age and then as a teenager i liked reading fantasy there was a series of books called dragon lance that i just absolutely loved those and then um when i went off to university um i found authors like william burroughs and charlie husky and um you know authors that just kind of like he's just changed my thinking really and changed my viewpoint and yeah so i suppose i always have been a reader have you guys always write i have two two-thirds of us i say that i didn't really read when i was uh when i was sort of a young teenager i think i kind of got into books when i was about 50 yeah yeah i was a bit i was a bit of a late starter really what about you tommy um i read um the biggles books quite a lot when i was young since then not really dabbled that much no i'm not really i'm not a reader really i'm not like non-fiction yeah i love it yeah i love notifications yeah there's a lot of boys i work with in schools they love non-fiction that's that's their too they love finding out facts about things yeah i love it when children can come up to you because they want to tell you a new fact that's that's brilliant and that's something my eldest is doing uh world war ii as his topic and he loves facts he'll read ripley's believe it or not guinness book of records it just all goes in and he sat there and he said to me oh dad dad let me tell you a fun fact about the holocaust and i said yeah it's you probably can't really use the word fun fact about that one um but he did tell me an interesting fact on the back of it i'm very intrigued it was about how long you would have to remain silent if you had a second or a minute silent for each each victim of the holocaust yeah yeah and it ended up being an absolutely awfully long period of time that did actually just make you think um sticking with the holocaust it's something that um i get asked to do in primary schools quite a lot is is to cover it yeah yeah and you get such emotive writing from the children it's just incredible so i i took my son to auschwitz um a few years ago because he was doing it at school and i felt that if i was talking about the place out of respect i need to go to it yeah anyway i was in um a school and we were doing this holocaust workshop and one of the teachers got very upset and had to leave the room and um in the break time i asked her if she was okay and she said oh my my grandad was in auschwitz i said oh really and we got talking about this and anyway this guy had just lived the most incredible life and the family have asked me to write his life story as a novel and it's been something for about three years now i'm i'm i'm stop reaching the end um off putting it together but um out of respect for this family this has got to be good it's got to be right yeah that's going to say a lot of pressure isn't it a hell of a lot what is the level of responsibility like on on that i've got to share the novel with them before i even approach a publisher with it so this is guaranteed to be published because it's not anybody that's waiting for it you know i've got to try and find the right publisher but the story just very briefly is is this this guy um lived in poland and lived on a farm with his two brothers and his parents and he was 14 years old and he was allowed to go and play football after church one sunday so he took the ball um that belonged to his brother and was kicking it about in the street and he kicked it and it landed at the feet of these ss soldiers when they picked the ball up it was filled with anti-nazi literature because it belonged to his brother who was much older than him who was you know spreading about this literature um during nazi occupation but the nazis thought that this guy michael this 14 year old they thought that this stuff belonged to him he was taken off to a prison cell where he was tortured and then eventually he was sent off to auschwitz and he was there for nearly a year as a political prisoner at the age of 14.

where he was there until it was uh liberated by the by the russians and at the age of 18 um he was it was something like it's like he was less than four stone you know anyway he was then sent off to to recover and uh while he was recovering he made the decision that he wanted to join the polish army because he wanted to fight against anything like this ever happening again and he was sent off to to the uk and he was training in and while he was training there he saw a girl who was working there and said in polish to one of his friends blimey she's beautiful anyway this girl went marching up to him and said um i can speak polish i heard you said there you and they were married two weeks later so he decided to stay in the northeast of england and he got a job down the coal mine and um while he was in the coal mine the coal mine exploded and collapsed and he was the only survivor what and it is his life is just constantly just filled with these incredible stories of survival so that's that's the book that i'm i'm currently writing along with the sort of stuff that if you put it in a fiction book people just go that's just just that isn't it no one's going to believe that a kid's book it began as a children's book it began as a book that i wanted to write to kind of teach children about the holocaust but it's evolved and it it's not it's it's got to be a book for adults that one the way that it's been written um purely because of um as i was writing it i didn't want to kind of like pull any punches and i wanted to say you don't want to miss the foul exactly yeah yeah for the kids and then discarding the stuff that actually you feel needs absolutely so in the end i i did go for it and i i did put what life was really like in auschwitz and particularly in that housing because i think that matt hausen's one of those places that people know a lot less about and yet michael this the the guy that i'm writing about he considered matt housing to be much much worse than auschwitz and he he wrote a bit of a diary so i've got some of his writing that i'm basing it upon and you won't believe some of the things that has happened there it's just so yeah that's an interesting quandary that isn't it is what you have to leave out of certain age groups of uh children's writing yeah because it's amazing what kids can actually put up with isn't it i mean they'll take they'll take a lot of darkness and death and sort of gothic stuff do you do you have a sort of cut off point where you're okay i'm not gonna go there when um particularly when i'm working with children on the holocaust i'm gonna say i say to the teachers beforehand when they ask me a question i'm gonna give them an honest answer and we have that discussion before we start but i also get asked in schools to write um ghost stories or horror stories and i do it say to the children you know this this is spooky writing we're not going to describe you know a clown running down the street with a chainsaw yeah we're going we're going to do things that are creepy and and i'll give them some you know examples of that so i tend to find with that kind of writing i i do kind of pull my punches a little bit i don't want to be too um explicit with horror yeah i would love if that was because of there was a stop because this one time i scared this entire year group of children and some of them are still still recovering now some are in therapy about it now yeah frightening children isn't really something that i'm you know it's not going to get you repeat business massively is it in terms of long-term business plan and also a lot of a lot of what i do children they want to write funny things and and even if they're writing something based upon the stone age or something like that they'll want to inject that humor and and so part of my role has kind of shown them how they can do that successfully without it being um a little bit cliche you know so yeah i usually tell children based upon things that have happened to you um and yeah schools are funny places that every single day i've got something to write down and something to laugh about it's um just the other day this they have this thing i don't know if they have it in your kids school but they have dojos and it's like a reward system where they get dojos for doing certain things and um i went into a classroom and there was a dinner lady and she was there she was like right everybody sit smart i'm gonna give you all a dildo

was still she was in the after skill club and she was like three feet tall this woman she was she was just like tiny and she must have worked in the school forever and she was walking around going tippy tippy tap tap on my shoulder who will be my pa nah and the children have to put their hands on on her shoulder as she walked around and that was her way of getting them into a circle and it was just hilarious she was she'd be a brilliant character in a book just fantastic and you meet characters like that all the time terrifying actually genuinely terrifying like a david williams character i mean i i honestly thought we might have picked in the interview at dave's early um siren call but but then the dildo story came out yeah yeah well yeah there's a there's a lot of stuff that happens this i i'm thinking you know like um there was the guy oh you you guys all remember this there was a guy confessions of a bookseller and and he wrought a book is that one of those 1970s shows like there's a confession for window cleaner and yeah actually i might have given that the wrong title i

that was it it wasn't like a saucy 1970s um yeah it was called diary of a bookseller and it's about this guy who owns a bookshop in wig town we're going full circle and he just wrote his experiences of what it's like with customers coming into the uh coming into his shop and the things that they said things like a woman walked in and said um oh we're doing dracula as part of my book club this week um do you know which book he's written

these absolutely ridiculous that he's now compiled into into a into a book and a little bit like the um adam k book where he writes about his life as as yeah yeah so i i really think that i need to write a book about um one in the skills don't call it don't call it confessions of a school visitor though

um so in the meantime i've got with the stuff that i'm working on um i've got some um i've got a second edition of one of my academic books that i've got to get writing and i'm writing for a company called fiction express at the moment as well which is where you write a chapter and it goes online and then the children who are reading it and decide what happens next you give them three options trying to get getting children into reading because they feel they've got a little bit of ownership over the process and i'm quite enjoying doing that but um there's a forum on the website where i pose questions and then children they put responses into it and i was just reading that the forum just before um we started um this podcast and one of them i said it's a viking story that i'm currently writing and i said you know what what mythical monster do you think should appear in the story next and i gave a couple of options and this one kid in spain turned around and said i think you should put fenrir the wolf in it because he's the bastard of our guard i thought oh that's a great idea i'm not sure if i'll be allowed to use that one but yeah yeah it would be good though so yeah so that's that's what i'm busy getting on with next and um so what are you going to write this week well i was just thinking actually we we really ought to do a little uh kids story challenge off the back of this shouldn't we definitely i think that that should be that should be something that we do so do you have yeah have you got any sort of um hints and tips of what we should uh be looking at if we're going to write our own little stories i think it's got to be something that you're interested in so if biff and chip honk your horn

but you know i think it's got to be something i think children they can spot a fake they can spot when somebody doesn't know what they're talking about if they're reading a book about um i don't know the egyptians or something like that if if somebody's just kind of like winging it and putting stuff in there for the sake of it i think children can spot that quite easily i also think you need to be concise and just just tell the story you know if you've got a story in your head then you tell us just and don't deviate too much um children and i find that children like get description quite well they there's always displays in in classrooms that says said is dead don't use the word said um don't use words like big you know they're always being told to expand their vocabulary however children need to know the difference between when you're telling a story and when you're describing so authors like jk ragland she uses words like said and big but she uses them when she's telling the narrative when she's got that fast pace running through it because she's telling that part of the story but then if she wants to describe something she'll slow the pace down and she'll use much more rich and descriptive vocabulary in children's writing is it's occasionally just get on with it and just tell the story yeah good advice good advice yeah yeah because are you going to read these stories out on the uh on the podcast we probably will yes i think that's that sounds like a good we might we might find a team group of children to present them to and get some you know saying about the honest feedback yeah i think what would your own children give you honest feedback yeah yeah yeah you think so yeah yeah but that's got to be the acid test hasn't it actually uh using real live children yeah absolutely because um a lot of publishers now particularly within children before they actually sign a book deal will will send the book out to to different schools and have the teacher read it with the class to get some feedback from that and children reviewing children's books is something that happens quite frequently um which is yeah that's no bad thing because that's your target audience yeah yeah so i'll actually look forward to reading your own listening to yourself well yes yeah but well we've been i think inspired by uh by your by your story and your hints and tips here so yeah we definitely would love to hear what you think of them when we finally get around to writing them absolutely yeah see

although you'll notice we haven't seen it we'll edit that we'll edit the deadline in after we've finished writing adam thanks so much for coming on gives you time yeah that's been great thank you very much for talking to us very much and your podcast is fantastic by the way it's when you thought the invitation i thought you know i better have a listen to it first in case it's [ __ ] and it wasn't it was fantastic i i love the way that it's it is about writing but it's it's about all aspects of writing i think it's you've done a tremendous job so thank you very much for being welcome all right thanks for the feeling we'll definitely we should stick that review up shouldn't we i thought i was worried it might be [ __ ] but it wasn't i think that's well thanks very much then guys and uh yeah i'll listen to you soon thanks adam thank you very much again take care cheers bye

so well that was lovely wasn't it that was excellent very lovely what a lovely man yeah he can uh his enthusiasm is quite infectious it's brilliant isn't it you see why kids kids love them going into absolutely not just because of his haircut obviously that kind of inspirational and you do remember don't you from like teachers or people that came into school not when they were doing shakespearean stuff that was rubbish dangerous if anything but when you know that those those little contacts you have when you're a kid that just those little sparks yeah that can really stay with people for the rest of your life and it's quite fulfilling the people who come into your school that you remember most of them just just drift and you never think of them again i i can remember one guy who came in to talk about uh to basically instruct us in the lead up to christmas not to use the abbreviation xmas

it was quite a religious talk i'm guessing it turned into one yeah it started off talking about algebra and how in algebra that's how they say that's how they say algebra in my neck of the words algebra in algebra x is the unknown factor and christ our lord was not an unknown factor so when you write xmas you're right in unknown factor immerse and that's not quite what he had in mind that's not quite right no he didn't die on the cross to be named across but he made a big impact obviously he did probably because i remember that had his hands in his pockets throughout the whole thing and was moving them in quite an animated way but uh that was partly what and so do you use the term xmas i don't think i've ever said the word xmas until just now dave has been scarred for life it's him so he doesn't uh actually use any words beginning with x at all now no no my xylophone career was right out the window didn't you yep yeah desperately trying to think of the words beginning with x no longer brother no no no xerox didn't last that long i don't know no um if i break a bone i'm screwed so how let me ask you a question chaps when you were young what books did you enjoy i think i briefly mentioned in the interview there i did get into i'm not a massive reader as we established but um biggles i did love reading meals oh yeah and i did go through those like an absolute dose of sauce yeah a really good like boyzone kind of adventure during war time what age would that be that sort of like 1011 kind of thing 19 20. yeah no it probably was yeah 10 11 yeah that kind of age i kind of stopped reading i think when i was about probably about that age 10 11 and uh my mom bought me those choose your own adventure books that would be a way to get me reading i did quite like them i think it worked for a while they were quite good but they were definitely of their time weren't they i remember writing one of those when i was a kid i must have read them yeah i must have got those from the library because i i actually wrote i think i did quite as a real complex kind of like you know because you have to if that happens and then that's there yeah yeah things like a murder murder in a hotel or something except mine only had like two different forks and that was it you know i that's that's the problem that's mine would have been i would have been one of those things where i thought this is a really good idea and then i got bored so every single choice would have just ended with and then he woke up and it was all a dream as every other story that i wrote in school ended in fact i do i remember that almost every single story i'd be writing away and the teacher would say oh we've run out of time and then all right and then dave and it was his mum shouting him for school my english teacher actually banned us from doing that so it was obviously uh yeah i think i think it's a little bit of a go-to for the 11 year old uh yeah what about you what did you read when you were a kid um i used to read i used to be well into roald dahl books loved role dance but i also used to read the dandy comic i was going to comics as a kid i saw a friend's kid was reading the beano the other day and they started didn't know they were still going the dandy nabino but yeah still there i used to read a lot of that used to read um oh as i got older we've mentioned before 2018d a lot of comics that sort of used to like i used to pick up a lot of like annuals like bino annuals and stuff jumble sales and uh there was the ones that used to have like hamish hot shot hair mission yeah the football one yeah and um archie someone or some wartime kind of shenanigans as well and things i used to used to like those yeah quite like to guinness book of records as well right yeah didn't mind behind a factual book yeah your kid's into those isn't he uh yeah yeah massively yeah yeah he loves his uh his fact books yeah i think anything for me it was the it was like the i think the adventure thing as a kid yeah i think i always wanted to have an adventure and and he i guess it's quite a strong core isn't it yes kids stuff from like even like famous five secrets about say enid blyton i think when i was probably eight or nine he used to read a lot of enid blyton used to absolutely love them but if you read them now no offense seen it but they're pretty bad bad in what sense like well they're just really boring right and just not very well written and i don't know they just sort of seem to go off on these little tangents i have to be fair i haven't read one for a while but i read one um i i started reading uh the far away tree because i remember absolutely loving that as a kid well my kid's quite that uh i read that to joel when he was quite little but i mean it's just meaningless it is all over the shop isn't it it's like it's terrible yeah do you think maybe your tastes have changed since you were nine years old john i think they must have i think i was expecting it to be just as magical and amazing but that's i think that's it isn't it it's because part of it is what your imagination creates in the gaps whilst you're reading something now that's what you remember this is one book that i remember i borrowed it off my cousin and it was called hud's army and it was the first book of a trilogy and i remember being it was the most exciting book that i've ever read and i've never been able to find it since it was discontinued you can't buy a copy anywhere and i searched for a while to try and find it and then i suddenly thought hang on if i end up getting a copy of this i'm almost certainly going to be massively disappointed because it can't possibly be as good as i remember yeah i think you might be right i just in my head it's the best sort of science fiction story i've ever heard but if it was the best science fiction story ever surely someone else would have heard of it in the last 30 years other than just me yeah it might have taken off a little bit if it was that good it even existed and it was all a dream

but yeah did you read the hobbit yes yes love the hobbit see i got quite into them when i was uh i guess i'd started reading again whenever when whenever that was 15. yeah i'd come 15. lord of the rings at the library when i was about 14. there were certain books though that i didn't you could tell were good books like good you know very young kid books because you actually sort of didn't mind reading them you know they they just they're quite enjoyable to read out even when you're you know even when you're on number 100 the millionth version well john i was reading um i don't know if you've heard of them the mr gum books oh yeah yeah jess the other one did you enjoy them yeah very much so very very stanton yeah he's uh he's a bit of a genius my kids absolutely love those books doesn't matter whether your kids love them you love those books well to be fair i absolutely love those books i used to go into uh the kids school when they're in primary school and read to the class i always used to take mr gum and genuinely never heard laughter like it absolutely just a total joy to read what i loved about those books is the fact that you can hear the joy that andy stanton had while he was writing if that makes sense and then one day you were in the school reading the book and you just bent the corner of the page down and it snapped off and flew into the

did you have to put on like a big a wig and a moustache or something like a big false nose i've come to read a book because you look familiar as well actually mentioning andy stanton and mr gum um you've managed to i don't know what you bully stalk swift or worse i don't know what uh yeah uh him to come on the podcast i mean john so we've got that lined up yeah we've got something to look forward to i'm insanely excited about that it's just dave it's just going to be embarrassing

thank you thank you sorry thank you i probably won't say a word won't be able to hear the occasion

but i don't know if it's before then or after then that we have to write our own children's stories i think we should speak to andy first as well and get as many uh children's story perspectives okay that's a good idea that is a good idea yeah and that's not just me procrastinating because we're doing nano right now and writing an award yeah tv comedy and yeah we've got whatever do it all we have got a lot on haven't we so yeah yeah that's a good idea yeah well it doesn't make sense speak to me although i have to say chaps is already sorry but i've already outlined my plot for my book i haven't written oh i've outlined it how about that how do you feel about that the children for your kids for the children's books i've got it it's all it's all coming on yes yes i was just thinking about in the car the other day i had a i had a long journey well it wasn't that long an hour journey and it just popped it sounds like i'd be rubbish good good good i had an idea for mine as well what is it tommy what is it uh um and lots of adventures happen but um then it was all to a kid yeah it was all a dream actually no do i should do it the other way he had all these adventures but that was a dream oh no that's the same isn't it we woke up and it was always true so he had yeah he had all these adventures then he fell asleep that's good that's clever he thinks he's dreaming so he does all these crazy things and then it turns out it was it's a complete spin on it yeah and it was all awake anyway let's leave that until we've we've uh spoken to andy stanton because we have got nanowrimo rimo to do first yeah how are you feeling about that boys oh it's quite large isn't it because you get it's like it's like a mountain range in the distance but yeah it doesn't look too high yeah it looks fine it's fine and as you get closer yeah yeah yeah kind of looks getting real vertically up and you're going well yeah and then the other day i was out on a run and my mind was just wondering i was trying to work out how many words a day i should be aiming to do bearing in mind probably won't be with the best intention in the world i won't be writing every day because stuff will happen it gets into questions when you do the maths it's quite a lot isn't it it's a couple of thousand words a day the problem is i've been working on this other book which i have finished by the way yeah i've written a book but because i've been doing that i haven't paid any attention to planning out the next book so i think i've got a few days to plan a whole book and then a month to write that it is going to be challenging are you are you going to actually set aside the time to do a certain amount of work i'm kind of trying not to think about it too much because it is it does seem like a large insurmountable mountain so yeah it does i'm just gonna say it'll be fine we'll do what we can it's about doing your best isn't it and just having the exactly and that's setting time aside to do it just getting some words down to be fair we'll have we'll have done more words than we would have done if we haven't done it yeah so that's that's gotta be a good thing have you plotted it out badly now just you're discovering uh i i'm going to plot it to be fair because uh if we go back to when we did our murder mystery episode you'll remember that this came from an idea that i'd had 20 years ago anyway oh yeah so in a certain respect there's a lot of it already mapped out yeah so you've been mulling it over for a while yeah but i need to sort of run that process through the sort of prism of what we've learned about planning a book out over the next week yeah so by by the end of by the time it starts i'll be ready and we should say we should remind people um listeners that they can join our nano remote group and how do they do that how do they do that tom we don't know we tried yesterday no we do know in places if you want to join our group email us at failingwriters failingwriterspodcast gmail.com and we will add you to the group you need to let us know what your username is and then we should be able to find you and we can add you to the group and you can join us i'll drop us a dm on twitter if you want yeah that's you know just just let us know your username and we will actually hook up and we can nag each other and laugh at each other and have a jolly old time yeah be nice be nice i feel like a little community i think it's stuff like that that helps isn't it so let's do it yeah it definitely does definitely does well then we better go and get some resting guys yeah yeah got a lot of words to get some uh finger exercises important um yeah the old john and the fingers again sorry

if you haven't listened to episode 2 i think it was where we did our teenage poetry um don't anyway until next time dear listeners let's just say goodbye

where's everybody gone

Adam Bushnell Profile Photo

Adam Bushnell

I went to Jesmond Road Primary School in Hartlepool where I learnt a love of stories and of writing. I was then off to High Tunstall Comprehensive School where I found firm friends for life.

After that, it was Hartlepool Sixth Form College, which I totally loved.

My university was in London. I went to the Roehampton Institute of the University of Surrey in 1992 and trained to be a teacher. My degree was in Philosophy and a four-year teaching course. I loved University! I met crazy people, saw amazing places, did fun things; all fuel for stories that would be written later. I worked as a student teacher in Waterloo, Brixton, Thornton Heath and Putney. All great places with inspirational teachers to guide me.

My final teaching practise was at Granard School on the Ashburton Estate in Putney. That school took me on as a Newly Qualified Teacher and I had a fabulous three years there, teaching in Key Stage 2.

During this time, I wrote stories to tell to my class and to the rest of the school in assemblies. It was at this point that I knew that I wanted to be both a teacher but also an author. I used to take my classes on residential trips to Nethercott Farm in Devon, where I met the amazing author Michael Morpurgo. He was a real inspiration and gave me some excellent advice on my writing.

In 1999 I moved to Holland and taught at the British School of the Netherlands in The Hague.

I got to visit other schools in Europe and learn about a variety of teaching methods and educational strategy.

After five years living there, I returned to the U.K. and moved to Durham, where I now live.

I taught for one year at Easington Colliery School as a part time Literacy teacher. It was then that I also became a part time storyteller travelling around schools and delivering creative writing workshops.

After a year in Easington I took a resident artists post at Yohden School in Horden for two years. It was during this time that I got my first book, ‘Snakes’ Legs and Cows’ Eggs’, published in 2007. Things really took off from there. I became a full time author delivering writing workshops on a daily basis.

I’ve now had over thirty books published, became an Amazon number one best selling author, won an award and I love my job! I've got more fiction and academia due for release soon.

I've scuba dived with green turtles in Hawaii, ridden a moped through the streets of Ho Chi Minh, delivered writing workshops in a prison in Africa.

I’m in a different place every day talking to people about writing, helping them with their own writing and, hopefully, inspiring a love of reading. For me, reading is one of the most important things in the world. It teaches us about our past and can help mold our future. It allows us to climb inside the minds of others and to understand why people do the things that they do. It teaches us to relate to others.

I love writing just as much because it helps me to express myself in a creative way. But my most favourite thing about what I do is seeing others want to read or write. That is why I spend most of my time in schools, in museums, in libraries - telling stories and igniting writing. Hopefully, I’ll get to visit you very soon and we can have fun writing together.